5 Myths about Multicultural Education
Multicultural education has been an open – ended topic for more than a decade now. Many educators, researchers, and experts have been conducting various studies and providing guidelines all throughout, but seem to be not enough for this to be fully accepted. Even though it has gained widespread support from professional organizations, there are myths that are keeping it from the nation’s full acceptance. Here are 5 myths on multicultural education that should be addressed:
1. If a group of people came from the same location (a town, province, and region) or speak the same language, have a common culture.
The Philippines is consists of 17 regions with over 150 languages. Many Filipinos in the Southern Tagalog region share a common language but are not considered to be in a similar ethnic group since they have various cultures. The cultures of the Tagalogs in Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan, Calapan City, and Puerto Princesa City could be distinctive from one another, even though the people there have the same language.
Therefore, it is wrong to look at multicultural education based on these aspects alone, since there are other aspects of acknowledging such as historical, racial, and cultural differences (Banks & Banks, 1989), to fully grasp its definition.
2. If people live together, they have the same culture.
This view is continuously misleading people from various aspects. When people are living in one home, they will develop one common culture.For instance, a child living with irresponsible and ill – mannered parents is also considered as one, just because he lives with them. Prejudices are given to lots of people due to this belief, which is absolutely unsuitable for viewing one person.
3. If teachers want to tell stories, they can randomly choose from various children’s books offered to them, taking for granted culture factor.
This is rather a very common misunderstanding in the part of the teachers. Teachers tend to choose stories that would be interesting enough to their pupils, but the culture content of it is most of the time disregarded. The result is that whatever the story tells on the surface, is the only thing being directly forwarded to the children, unintentionally creating major confusions and gaps in the beliefs and personal culture of the children.
The Council on Interracial Books for Children published Guidelines for Selecting Bias-Free Textbooks and Storybooks in 1980 (see Derman-Sparks, 1989). The guidelines suggest: 1) checking illustrations for stereotypes or tokenism, 2) checking the story line, 3) looking at the lifestyles (watching out for the “cute-natives-in-costumes” syndrome, for example), 4) weighing relationships between people, 5) noting the heroes, 6) considering the effect on a child’s self-image, 7) considering the author’s or illustrator’s background, 8) examining the author’s perspective, 9) watching for loaded words, and 10) checking the copyright date.
4. Multicultural education refers to ethnic or racial issues.
This is also a very misleading view. While multicultural education includes ethnic and racial issues, they are just a part of it. There are many other aspects to be considered such as social class, and cultural background.
For teachers, handling children from diverse communities, it is necessary to teach with openness to this issue. They should promote equality in giving their children opportunities in whatever school work they have.
Gollnick and Chinn (1990) recommend five goals for multicultural education. These goals also emphasize issues beyond the boundaries of ethnic or racial issues. They include: 1) the promotion of strength and value of cultural diversity, 2) an emphasis on human rights and respect for those who are different from oneself, 3) the acceptance of alternative life choices for people, 4) the promotion of social justice and equality for all people, and 5) an emphasis on equal distribution of power and income among groups.
5. Multicultural education is not necessary because cultural diversity is already accepted worldwide.
Multicultural education and cultural diversity are two different things. While many people accept that aside from their own culture, there are still other existing cultures does not mean that they could understand and be able to cope with the others. They need to be fully aware of their differences and be able to learn how to deal with these differences and not just either misunderstand or ignore each other’s differences.
No doubt, there are still other myths about multicultural education formed through the years, we may guiltily accept it or not. However, they will continue unless we commit ourselves on equality for diverse learners/people around us.